Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020
Keys to the Kingdom
June 21, 2020
Keys to the Kingdom
Galatians 4: 1-7
TEXT: "The Kingdom of God is as if. . ." Mark 4:26
The story is told of an ancient king who presented his court jester with a beautiful wand...
“I give you this trophy,” said the king, “to symbolize your status as the greatest fool in my kingdom.
You are to keep it until you can give it to a greater fool than yourself.”
The court jester good-naturedly accepted the award. Sometime later, the king was dying and asked to
see the jester. “I want to say good-bye,” he said. “I am going on a long journey that will last forever.”
The jester then asked, “What have you done to prepare for this great trip?”
“Nothing whatever,” the king replied. “Since I don’t know exactly where I am going on this long journey,
there is nothing to be done.” To which the jester replied, “Then take this wand. You are the biggest fool
The Apostle Paul has summarized our final destiny in the one word: "heirs." "If a child then also an heir, through God" he said (Gal. 4:7). As God’s heirs, in terms of our own journey, we must never forget: despite any other foolish notion to the contrary, because we are children of God, we are destined for all eternity to share in our Father's Estate. Because we are children of God, we are destined to share in our Father's Kingdom.
We read in today's Gospel, "The Kingdom of God...is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade" (Mk. 4:30,31).
And in Matthew we read, "The Kingdom of God is like the yeast which a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour, till it was leavened all through (Mt. 13:33). The theme common to both passages is growth.
By God's design, the mustard seed and the leaven have been implanted in our hearts. By God's design, His Kingdom will come to the extent that it is developed and nurtured in the hearts of His children and heirs. By God's design, His Kingdom will come when the community of humanity comes to regard the title "Children of God" as seriously as life itself: as a profound expression of life's destiny; as something to be lived and lived up to. The Kingdom will come, Jesus tells us, when we have learned to "love one another as He has loved us." That, by God's design, is our means of living up to the name we bear as members of this worshipping community: Christians! That is our destiny, by God's design, now and in all our days to come. And to the extent that we design our own lives accordingly, we are on our way to the Kingdom of Love.
The truly marvelous thing about Jesus' New Commandment of Love is that the newness never wears off. A new and unique power to love is breathed into the heart and soul of every human creature of God. Each human act of compassion, each act of understanding, each act of healing, each act of forgiveness, is a new and unique revelation of what love is all about -- and, therefore, what God and fulfillment and eternal happiness are all about. There are no limits to the diverse ways in which we can draw closer to the Divine through the experience of love. The New Commandment of love is eternally new. And Jesus wants us to understand, that in expressing our love for one another, we simultaneously express our love for our Father, God. But merely to know this is without meaning, because to understand love, one must experience love.
Nature has many remarkable ways of illustrating the growth process. In the case of the Chinese bamboo tree, for instance, the seed is planted, watered, fertilized, and for the first four years there is no visible growth. Amazingly, however, during the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree grows ninety feet in six weeks. Now, did the tree really take five years to begin growing? Not at all. Although growth was not visible, the root system experienced tremendous development during those first four years, thereby making it possible for the Chinese bamboo to stand tall and sturdy and secure and to be what it is meant to be in the natural order of things.
And so, it is with our growth. Jesus tells us, over-and-over again in the Gospels, in order for us to experience spiritual growth, in order for us to grow and develop into the kind of person we are meant to be, we must acknowledge our absolute, total dependence on God, not only for who we are but also for what we ought to do. Again, we read in today’s Gospel Lesson, "The Kingdom of God...is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade".
Reflecting on what he called “The Miracle Season of Spring,” the late newspaper journalist James J. Kilpatrick wrote ... Foolishly, we suppose that everything can be explained by science. Given a telescope big enough or a microscope strong enough, we perceive no secrets in immense outer space or in miniscule atom particles that may not be revealed.” The pursuit of science of science can do great things. It can predict the path of a solar eclipse which we had this weekend and where we must be to see it in its totality. Medical science produced a polio vaccine which protects the bodies of children and young adults from the ravages of a once dreaded disease The time will come when researchers will announce a workable vaccine for COV-19, hopefully sooner than later.
However, science has its limitations. It will not allocate vital resources to produce the vaccine in enough quantities for all to justly receive the protection. Questions of justice and the value of a human life come from other sources. – the sense of a common humanity and from what is called the ethics dimension of the religious experience.
As a Christian community, we say to all the doubting Thomas' of the world, the miracle of the mustard seed and the bamboo tree and all of God’s glorious creations are affirmations that there exists a gracious God who is inviting us into His Kingdom of Love -- right here, and right now!
To put one’s faith and trust in God who is Love, and to love and to be loved, requires genuine heroism -- the courage to embrace certain values as one’s ultimate concern and to take the great leap of faith and stake everything on those values.
Time and again, and in many ways, Jesus said, “You will recognize by their fruits the persons whose faith and trust in God’s ways brings them into His Kingdom.”
You will know them, He said, by the difference this faith and trust has made in the way they live. And because their faith and trust in God has made a difference in the way they live, they are blest, they are happy ...
Happy are they who show mercy, mercy shall be theirs ...
Happy are the peacemakers ...
Happy are they who hunger and thirst after holiness ...
Happy are reconcilers ...
Happy are they who forgive and forget ...
Happy are they who leave the judgment of others to God ...
Happy are they whose faith and trust in God has made all the difference because their faith and trust are the Keys to the Kingdom -- Keys to God’s Kingdom of Love!